Tycho de Waard (SU)
When I started my company (Tjep's digital agency) in 2017, I did this with 100% DNN in mind. But in reality I get caught up in projects with other CMSses as well. Actually, I did several consultancy projects where I could analyze the pros and cons of Drupal, Kentico, Liferay, Umbraco and many more. The one blind spot was Sitecore. That changed a few months ago.
I was eager to get my hands dirty with Sitecore as I knew a couple of things. This CMS has been in the Gartner quadrant in every edition as winner of 'completeness of vision' and 'ability to execute'. A bit like having driven Vauxhall, BMW, Suzuki, Toyota, Audi and all of the sudden you get the keys to a Bentley...I'll take that!
So...how did that go? Here are my experiences as a content editor.
If there is one feeling that sums it all up: 'wow, this is complicated'. The reason(s) for this is that:
- back end and front end are really seperated. Very much like any CMS you can create pages and add components to that page. But if you take a look at the front end, nothing appears. The thing is that on the front end you need to add the components seperately.
- If you copy a page, the front end of the new page still points to the old page. So, whatever you change, add, delete on the new page, it won't show up on the new page and you keep looking at the old layout. So, you need to go to the front page and change the components.
- publishing related items and subitems... This is where the magic happens. If you publish a page, you can also publish subitems. So, subpages or the folder local content where all components of the page reside. If you publish like this, all pages you 'selected' are published but as your front end can be connected to something/somewhere else, it does not mean that the pages are published as you expected. For instance, an image or FAQs reside in the Reusable content folder which does not get published automatically. For that you can check the 'related items' and start publishing. If you and your colleagues have done everything 100% ok, this is a good option. Because it will publish all pages and components you want and need. But...if your colleague is working on a related item, it will get published too. If your copied page still has a reference to an old unpublished component, that will be published too. And it might also be published on pages or places with similar references. The result is that later that day or week or month, components or pages are discovered to be published and nobody knows when/how/who...
- As you can personalize just about anything, you can imagine that being in control of online content is quite challenging. Especially if you take into account 1-3 above. Say, a colleague has copied a page with personalizations in it, starts editing and publishing the related content...
Imagine how fluid the world becomes if you use Sitecore Headless. If you do not have your content process perfectly lined up, you are in for a treat.
The result is that out of the 20 editors, there are 2 that can work self supporting. 4 reach out on a regular basis to me as they need help. The other 14 are silent. My guess is that they hope they can dodge the bullet. "If I am not logging in, I have no problems".
So...is there anything good?
There are a number of features that come across every tender and are actually really helpful.
- There is versioning on page level
- personalisation is good
- staging / content staging is in place
These are features that DNN platform does not have and are mandatory for corporates. I know, there are always workarounds but that is a discussion you don't win. Together with being number 1 in all fancy consultancy reports, I get how they get customers.
Besides the fact that Sitecore is complicated...
- For project managers / managers: if you buy Sitecore, you don't have anything yet. It's pretty much an empty box. Sitecore allows you to build just about anything but you also have to build everything.
- Licensing is based on concurrent users. It sounds a bit 2005 but it is still a reality.
- To have a more visual way of managing content, there is the 'Experience editor'. In my experience, that is terribly slow. I mean unbearable slow. First startup of that editor: 2 minutes. After that 30 - 60 seconds per click. And you need quite a few clicks.
Why still popular?
Having used so many content management systems, this one really tops it of when it comes to complexity. And actually, when it comes to running a website, it feels over engineered with outdated materials. But I understand that large corporations need certain features. Most importantly, they need reliable support. Even if DNN would have content staging, personalization etc. there are no large corporations like Capgemini, Incentro or Deloitte that support DNN. And that is something that Sitecore has done well. If you compare Sitecore to other CMSses that are supported by larger IT companies, you find that it is not bad at all. Tridion is even more outdated, also relies on a business model from a previous century and might be even harder to work with.
The future of Sitecore
Sitecore will be among us for a while. But we have a lot more to choose from nowadays, commercial and open source. And of course there is always the issue of being old software. A great example is Tridion. In The Netherlands we have seen a massive retreat of Tridion last 5 years and maybe 10 larger customers are left. It is the last CMS from a time with brands like Mediasurface, Ektron and Discovery server. All of them have virtually disappeared or have been merged with others. The next 5 years will be crucial for Sitecore whether they succeed in their headless strategy or fade out together with Hippo, Sitefinity and other commercial content management systems.